Catholic school closures around Philly have been making headlines for years. But the parishes that stand behind those schools are struggling as well, and some of them are now being instructed by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to merge.
St. Leo’s and Our Lady of Consolation, both located in Tacony, are now worshipping as one. The transition for churchgoers is underway to attend the main location at Consolation, though there is one morning mass still being held at the St. Leo’s location on Sunday mornings.
Father Joseph Farrell is one of the pastors sent to Our Lady of Consolation to make the transition go smoothly for their worshipers. He was accompanied by retired pastor Father Joseph O’Brien to bring some familiar faces to the alter. With his role as pastor at the new main location, Farrell has created ways to help everyone blend together as one.
“Things are going as well as can be expected,” Farrell said. “We put together a calendar for the parish and it involves both traditions.”
A committee was formed to keep members of both parishes involved in the transition.
“Some people from St. Leo’s and some people from Consolation sit down and, you know, work things out,” committee member Annette Dimicele said, “And come to a happy medium as to having these events and being successful.”
St. Leo’s continued its post-mass pancake breakfast Sunday morning, inviting Consolation parishioners to join them. The idea is to bring everyone together after mass and keep the tradition going at the new venue.
Attendance at Consolation has been up and some new faces have emerged at mass. “There are more people in the church, which is good. You know it can’t hurt,” Dimichele said.
But the way to keep this new community alive is getting people to come to mass. So far this seems to be going well. According to Farrell, “overall there is an increase in worshipers, as well as collections.”
Shannon Dougherty is a student reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University’s Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.